Environmental assessment

Nature Nanotechnology Vol. 12, No. 8 (August 2017)

Engineered nanomaterials are already in use in a wide range of applications, and their everyday presence is only going to increase in the future. With such widespread potential use, the implications for the environment must be carefully evaluated to ensure that nanotechnology-enabled products are properly regulated. This special issue focuses on risk assessment and life-cycle assessment and their use in evaluating the impact of nanomaterials on the environment from different points of view. We also consider the need for stronger regulations and more effective communication about the risks posed by nanomaterials for insurance purposes.

Carbon nanostructures for water desalination

Nature Nanotechnology Vol. 12, No. 6 (June 2017)

The increasing demand for fresh water for drinking and agriculture is one of the grand challenges of our age. Desalination is one of the ways in which fresh water can be obtained and is used in several countries, but it is inefficient and not sustainable. In this web focus we collect some articles about the potential use of carbon nanostructures in better desalination devices.


Out of equilibrium self-assembly

Nature Nanotechnology Vol. 11, No. 11 (November 2016)

Over the past few years, Nature Nanotechnology has published a set of commissioned Reviews, Perspectives and Commentaries on life-inspired and out-of-equilibrium systems at the nanoscale. We have now collected these contributions in this web focus hoping that they will serve to inspire and guide future explorations in this area.

Ten years of Nature Nanotechnology

Nature Nanotechnology Vol. 11, No. 10 (October 2016)

We are celebrating the tenth anniversary of Nature Nanotechnology by publishing a number of dedicated articles.

Advanced nanopores

Nature Nanotechnology Vol. 11, No. 2 (February 2016)

Commercial nanopore sequencers are now available. These devices are based on biological nanopores and sequence DNA using ion-current measurements. Nanopores can also be made from synthetic materials, but, at present, these nanopores are less sophisticated and capable than their biological counterparts. However, they allow read-out mechanisms other than ion-current measurements to be exploited and could, in the future, provide cheaper and more versatile devices, with applications in the analysis of DNA, proteins and beyond. In this focus we examine some of the possibilities for advanced synthetic nanopores and highlight the challenges the field faces in delivering practical devices.

Metamaterials for nano-optics

Nature Nanotechnology Vol. 11, No. 1 (January 2016)

Optical losses and the inability to modulate optical signals at the nanoscale have hindered major developments in the field of plasmonics and have forced the community to come up with creative solutions to solve these problems. In this focus, we look at some of the ways researchers have tackled these problems in recent years. In particular, we examine all-dielectric systems that should provide alternative, lossless ways to manipulate light at the nanoscale, hybrid atomic heterostructures that combine the advantages of plasmons and phonons, and reconfigurable metamaterials actuated by a host of nanoscale forces for signal modulation.


Quantum dot solids

Nature Nanotechnology Vol. 10, No. 12 (December 2015)

Colloidal quantum dots are often referred to as artificial atoms, primarily because of their atom-like electron energy spectrum. Like atoms, they can form ordered structures that are commonly referred to as quantum dot solids. In this focus we provide an overview of the electronic properties of quantum dot solids. In particular, we explore the developments that have led to the observation of high electron mobility, and the challenges and opportunities for the incorporation of quantum dot solids in optoelectronic devices.

Spin-transfer-torque memory

Nature Nanotechnology Vol. 10, No. 3 (March 2015)

Non-volatile memories that are faster, cheaper and less power-hungry than existing solutions might be built by using solid-state devices in which information is stored and read electrically rather than by magnetic fields. Spin-transfer-torque magnetic random access memory (STT-MRAM) — the most advanced of these emerging technologies for solid-state non-volatile memory — is about to hit the market. This Nature Nanotechnology focus overviews the prospects and remaining challenges that STT-MRAM and competing emerging technologies face in terms of mass-market commercialization.
Produced with support from Spin Transfer Technologies

Plasmonics applications

Nature Nanotechnology Vol. 10, No. 1 (January 2015)

The field of plasmonics and metamaterials has attracted a great deal of interest over the past two decades, but despite the many fundamental breakthroughs and exciting science it has produced, it is yet to deliver on the applications that were initially targeted as most promising. This focus examines the primary fundamental hurdles in the physics of plasmons that have been hampering practical applications and highlights some of the promising areas in which the field of plasmonics and metamaterials can realistically deliver.


Performance of photovoltaics

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Nature Nanotechnology (December 2014)

While power generation using silicon solar panels has steadily been increasing over the years, alternative materials that could compete with this technology in terms of efficiency and module costs are intensely being investigated. Yet, to allow for a fair assessment of new photovoltaic technologies, characterization of light-conversion performance should be conducted according to commonly agreed basic rules. This joint web focus collects a series of opinion pieces, recently published in Nature Materials, Nature Nanotechnology and Nature Photonics, that discuss the importance of reporting accurate device performance.

Graphene applications

Nature Nanotechnology Vol. 9, No. 10 (October 2014)

As a result of significant scientific and technological progress over the past ten years, the commercialization of products based on graphene and related two-dimensional materials is within reach in a range of areas, from consumer electronics to energy storage. This focus reviews the fundamental properties of graphene that are relevant to electronic and other applications, and discusses the opportunities and challenges of commercializing graphene technologies.


Nanoscience education

Nature Nanotechnology Vol. 8, No. 11 (November 2013)

Research in nanotechnology has grown rapidly in recent years and, like any successful field, would be expected to influence the curricula being taught at universities. However, if nanotechnology is a field defined by a length scale and not traditional subject areas, has it had a more profound effect on education? And what sort of education do future nanotechnologists need in order to thrive? Such questions and others are explored in this focus issue on nanoscience education.

Molecular electronics

Nature Nanotechnology Vol. 8, No. 6 (June 2013)

Since the early 1970s, researchers have looked to use individual molecules as functional building blocks in electronic circuits, but the field of molecular electronics has been hampered by significant experimental challenges and practical devices have remained elusive. Recent improvements in the study of single-molecule junctions have, however, led to the discovery of a variety of novel effects, which could have an impact on a range of applications. This focus issue examines the challenges and opportunities for the field.


Selected highlights

Nature Nanotechnology Vol. 6, No. 10 (October 2011)

Since it was launched in October 2006, Nature Nanotechnology has published papers on a wide range of topics within nanoscience and technology. This web focus brings together all the papers we have published in four particularly active areas - DNA nanotechnology, graphene, nanopores and nanotoxicology - along with articles on the public perceptions of nanotechnology.

DNA nanotechnology

The ability of DNA to self–assemble into a variety of nanostructures and nanomachines is highlighted in a growing number of papers in Nature Nanotechnology. The appeal of DNA to nanoscientists is threefold: first, it is a natural nanoscale material; second, a large number of techniques for studying DNA are already available; and third, its ability to carry information can be exploited in the self–assembly process. DNA is also increasingly being used to organize other nanomaterials, and the related field of RNA nanotechnology is beginning to emerge.


Graphene has been among the fastest growing areas of nanoscience and technology in recent years. This two-dimensional hexagonal lattice of carbon atoms has been found to have remarkable physical and chemical properties, and is also being considered for applications in areas as diverse as plastic packaging and next-generation gigahertz transistors.


Nanopore-based sensors allow DNA and other biomolecules to be analysed with subnanometre resolution and without the need for labels or amplification. Researchers are working on naturally occurring biological nanopores, solid-state nanopores and hybrids of the two, along with a variety of new readout methods. The ultimate goal of this research is to be able to rapidly and reliably sequence the human genome for under $1,000.


Two decades of nanotoxicology research has shown that the interactions between nanomaterials and cells, animals, humans and the environment are remarkably complex. Researchers are still trying to understand in detail how the physical, chemical and other properties of nanomaterials influence these interactions, and thus determine the ultimate impact of nanomaterials on health and the environment. There is also an ongoing debate about the regulation of nanomaterials.


Produced with support from Chinese Academy of Sciences Key Laboratory for Biomedical Effects of Nanomaterials and Nanosafety

Public perceptions of nanotechnology

Research into public perceptions of nanotechnology is becoming more rigorous with social scientists developing and testing increasingly complex theoretical models. Researchers have explored, among other things, how the public's reaction to nanotechnology depends on cultural predispositions, religiosity and the specific application of the new technology. It is clear that increased public awareness of nanotechnology will not, on its own, automatically lead to widespread public acceptance.


Plenty of room revisited

Nature Nanotechnology Vol. 4, No. 12 (December 2009)

50 years after Richard Feynman delivered his famous lecture, 'There's plenty of room at the bottom', Nature Nanotechnology looks at its influence on subsequent developments in nanoscience and technology.

Organic semiconductors

Nature Nanotechnology Vol. 4, No. 10 (October 2009)

Organic semiconductors are easy to process and can be used to make devices that are transparent, flexible and cheap. However, they are also fragile and not particularly good at conducting electricity. Three papers in the October 2009 issue of Nature Nanotechnology show that careful processing can redress these drawbacks, without compromising those qualities that make organics attractive in the first place.


Computing power

Nature Nanotechnology Vol. 3, No. 1 (January 2008)

Theory and computation have important roles to play in driving forward new ideas in nanoscience and technology. Although the level of detail needed to interpret the results of specific experiments can make it difficult to draw more general conclusions, the best theory papers will stimulate researchers to try new measurements or revisit old experimental data in a significantly different light.


First-anniversary highlights

Nature Nanotechnology Vol. 2, No. 9 (September 2007)

October 2007 marked the first anniversary of the launch of Nature Nanotechnology. To mark this occasion the editors collected some highlights from the first 12 issues of the journal. The selection reflects the diversity of nanoscience and technology, and includes contributions from chemists, physicists, material scientists, engineers, biomedical researchers and others. We hope that you enjoy it.